My internship placement this summer is with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Although the work I do relates specifically to people with disabilities, I enjoy being part of an office that works more broadly to ensure that the federal government is hiring a diverse group of employees and that it is being inclusive towards all employees.
I am also glad to be part of the Diversity and Inclusion Office because the world needs to recognize that disability is another form of diversity and that having people with disabilities in the workforce adds new and important voices and perspectives. Being part of this office also reminds me that those of us in the disability community need to look beyond disability and see the similarities between our struggles and those of other minorities. We need to form greater ties with others who face discrimination and oppression. We need to come together to share strategies and solutions. Rather than different minority groups working separately to be equal to the dominant groups in society, we need to work together to create a society that is inclusive of all individuals. We need to recognize the intersectionality of disability with other groups and form coalitions with groups that fight for rights and access. Of all minority communities, we are perhaps most responsible for bringing these groups together, since people with disabilities are of all races, nationalities, religions, genders, sexual orientations, ages, and cultures.
Our community needs to reach out more to people with disabilities who are also part of other oppressed groups and recognize the unique challenges they may face. I had the privilege this past week of meeting Daphne Kwok, the Executive Director of Asians and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California. She talked about the greater stigma and cultural misunderstandings faced by AAPIs with disabilities within their own communities. It is important for us to partner with groups like this and empower such communities through education and community building. There is much more we can do to reach out and form true and important alliances between the communities that have been denied civil rights and equal access for generations.